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Ralph is the protagonist of the novel who at first is overjoyed to be on a tropical island free from adult restraints. To express his excitement, he stands on his head, foreshadowing the topsy-turvy nature of things to come. By nature, he is an innocent, mild- tempered boy who accepts leadership when it is thrust on him. He serves as a democratic leader who tries to keep the boys together on the island and uses a conch shell to mildly show his authority. He thinks of building shelters to protect them and a signal fire for their rescue. He befriends Piggy, the fat boy that receives taunts and teases from the other boy, and learns to rely on Piggy's intellectual reasoning
Ralph has courage when the occasion demands it, but he really longs for the secure world of grown-ups, especially when order starts breaking down on the island. He dreams about a rescue and insists the signal fire burn at all times so that they can be seen. Ralph knows that the main reason for the disorder on the island is Jack, the antagonist and representation of evil in the novel. There is a constant conflict between the two boys. Ralph stands for civilized ideals, while Jack leads a tribe of savages and lapses into primitive rituals.
In the midst of the savagery, Ralph holds on to rationality and the hope of rescue. There is only one occasion when Ralph lapses into mild savagery; it occurs when he joins the ritual dance at the feast, the same feast where Simon is killed. The guilt that Ralph experiences as an outcome of his being a part of Simon's death is unbearable. It forces him to totally accept the fallen nature of all mankind. Armed with the truth, like Simon before him, he becomes the hunted animal, full of desperation and despair. Only civilization, that appears in the form of the naval officer, can save Ralph from the savagery that surrounds him.
Jack Merridew is Ralph's antagonist in the novel. When he is first seen on the island, he is leading a group of choirboys, who are dressed in strange uniform and march military style. It is a foreshadowing of Ralphs' authoritarian and dictatorial leadership at the end of the novel. During the novel, Jack is in constant conflict with Ralph, for he feels he should be the leader.
Jack is a boy of action and fiery temperament in the novel. He incites his boys to hunt, instigates the wild dances, drives them to savagery, organizes the insurrection against the current leader, plans the raid on Ralph's camp, and serves as a demanding, dictatorial ruler. As a reflection of his total being, it is appropriate that his hair is red. It would seem he appears almost devil-like, especially when he hides behind the mask of war paint. He represents the base and bestial nature of human beings.
Simon is the quiet, shy boy in the group. Being a visionary, he often goes into the forest by himself to contemplate nature and life. As a result of his different behavior, he is isolated from the others. But because he is a loner, he finds the truth. He realizes that the "Lord of the Flies" is the real beast (the evil in us all) while the beast on the mountain is nothing to fear, just death itself. In the novel, Simon becomes a Christ figure who tries to bring truth (salvation) to the boys; but they refuse to hear him and kill him instead.
Piggy is the fat boy who is the brunt of all the jokes and teasing in the novel. He is physically weak and constantly complains about his asthma. He is also myopic and almost blind without his glasses. But Piggy is also rational and has an understanding about life. He constantly warns the boys about their behavior and foolish ways. He also becomes Ralph's best friend and serves as a sounding board and advisor to him.
Piggy is also the fire-starter in the novel since his glasses are used to light all the flames. When Piggy's glasses are broken, it symbolically points to the breaking up of civilized society. When his glasses are stolen by the savages, he becomes completely blind and helpless. He cannot even see to dodge the large boulder that kills him. When he is killed, he is clutching the conch, a symbol of order and authority; appropriately, the conch is crushed with him.
Roger is a sadistic boy and Jack's close companion. He is the boy who pushes the boulder that kills Piggy. Earlier in the novel he throws stones at the littluns, but doesn't aim to hurt as he is still under the control of civilized laws. Later he turns completely savage, ignoring all the rules of civilized behavior.
PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
From beginning to end, Golding has structured Lord of the Flies around the ideas of man's fallen nature and his basic inhumanity to his fellow man. The novel begins with a group of boys who have tried to escape the ravages and savagery of a nuclear war. They crash on an island, a beautiful, tropical paradise. The boys are delighted to be there, away from adults and rules. But they quickly turn their freedom into a nightmare, reverting from civilized to primitive; in the process they become savages and two boys are killed.
In the end, the boys are rescued by a naval officer, but it is certainly not a full salvation for them. They are being returned to a world which is war-ridden; their fears and fight for survival must continue. In addition, they can never return to the innocence of childhood, for they know first-hand the inherent evil in human nature. They also realize that civilization is a thin veneer that covers man's fallen nature; without laws and punishment, the world, like the island society, would return to savage, primitive life.